Digital Investigators: Using Digital Media for Project-Based Learning

Last updated: 7/2/08 6:00 PM Central
NECC 2008 Session
BYOL: Bring Your Own Laptop Session
Wednesday, 7/2/2008, 1:30pm–2:30pm; Grand Hyatt Lone Star Ballroom C
Participants: Please bring ear buds or headphones.


Teaching American History Grant
Voices Rising Project website

Definition of Primary Source

A primary source is a document, speech or other evidence written or created during the time that the historical event occurred.
Examples include autobiographies, diaries, letters, official records, artifacts, etc.
(Although transcriptions are included by definition as primary sources, it is the goal of Voices Rising to provide images of original sources whenever possible, and to include transcriptions as tools to assist in the reading of materials that lack visual clarity, due to handwriting style or damage to documents.)


Digitization is the process of taking a physical object and converting it into digital information.
The Voices Rising/Boston Public Library partnership provided access to the BPL's Digital Lab.
BPL's digitization service features:
  • A Sinar camera system can capture RAW files sizes of up to 500 MB.
  • Derivatives such as TIFF or JPEG's can be created from RAW files.
  • Built-in software ensures even illumination over the entire object, eliminating hot spots.
  • Distortion-free images are produced using lenses made especially for two-dimensional objects.
  • Oversized objects can be digitized on a horizontal surface, reducing the risks posed by hanging delicate objects.
Participants were encouraged to locate primary source materials from the library's sizable collection, for use in their project based lessons. Items were transferred to the Imaging Lab to be digitized.

Other sources were located at state archives, local historical archives and area museums. Whenever possible, the librarian liaison arranged to have materials from other locations transferred to BPL Imaging Lab. Some organizations employed their own imaging services to fulfill these requests.
Read about the digitization of 1950's architectural drawings on the Voices Rising blog.

Project-Based Units (PBUs)

Instructions: Investigate your assigned PBU by visiting the digitized versions of primary sources located in the row. For instance, the Saugus Iron Works PBU has one artifact, the Saugus Pot, a film, and a letter from John Winthrop Jr. Remember, you are an investigator. To find embedded primary sources scroll through the web pages that are linked below.
Download and open to record a digital version of your research.
Audio & video
Printed text
Handwritten text
Diagrams Illustrations
(A) The Saugus Iron Works

Saugus Pot
SIW Restoration Film

Winthrop Papers

(B) The Grass is Always Greener

Diary Entry & Transcription
Map Comparison

(C) Emigration and Immigration

Download "Riot in Lowell"

Political Cartoons
(D) The Boston-to-Lowell Connection

Canal shovel

Pay Voucher

What do these primary sources tell you about American industrialization through the mid-nineteenth century?

ISTE Session Evaluation
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Here's the summary report (PDF) from the session Student Response System activity.

Door Prize Drawing

You must be present to win.
Thank You to Adobe Systems Inc. and Qwizdom Inc.

Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional (Windows only)
Qwizdom Q7 Presenter Tablet

Underwritten by a Massachusetts DOE Technology Enhancement Grant.